Tag Archives: Garlic

Grilled Fish 101: Two Recipes For The Price Of One!

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Last weekend I had friends coming over for dinner and I wanted fresh fish. Having not had the opportunity to catch my own recently I did the next best thing and headed for the fish market. Pickings were a little slim at Restaurant Depot but I noticed some large Wahoo fillets. I asked the gentleman behind the counter if I could examine one and he gladly handed me a latex glove.

I laughed and told him that I am bit of a stickler about fish being fresh, then I poked the fillet, squeezed it little to make sure it sprung right back, I even gave it a little sniff. I told him that Wahoo was one of the best fish in the ocean but it absolutely must be fresh! Then I asked him to cut a 4 pound chunk of this perfect fish for me to take home. I smiled a little when as I walked away the guy behind me said “Yeah, I think I would like some of that Wahoo too!”

Freshness truly is half the battle when it comes to fish. The other half is cooking it right! The key with firm and lean fish is to never, ever overcook it. I always say to take the fish off the grill just before it’s cooked through and let it finish on the plate. Believe it or not, fish is so delicate that the heat from cooking will carry over and finish the fish on the plate while still leaving the flesh moist and tender.

To be sure about the doneness I don’t mind using a fork or a knife to check the progress but it’s not always necessary. With fish, especially fish steaks, you can watch the edges turn from translucent to opaque as the fish cooks. When grilling simply keep an eye on the side of the fish and turn it just as the doneness reaches the halfway point. Cook the other side for the same amount of time and viola, you are ready for the plate!

My friend Cyndi asked me for a recipe for this delicious fish and I am going to post not one but two because I couldn’t pick a favorite! Both recipes are exceedingly simple, grilled, and both are perfect for firm lean fish such as Wahoo, Swordfish, Mahi Mahi, or Halibut. The first recipe calls for Za’atar seasoning. This savory spice mix is available at most Middle Eastern, kosher, and halal markets as well as some finer grocery stores. It is one of my favorite spice blends!

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Grilled Fish with Za’atar and Lemon

Fish steaks or fillets cut into serving portions
Za’atar Seasonings
Fresh lemon juice
Good Olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

 

Preheat a charcoal, gas grill, or grill pan. Sprinkle fish generously on both sides with Za’atar seasonings, drizzle with lemon juice, and olive oil. When the grill is hot soak a paper towel with oil and using tongs, carefully rub to coat the grill with oil. Place the fish on the grill and cook two minutes, turn the fish clockwise 90 degrees and cook two more minutes or until the fish turns white “almost” half way through.

 

Turn the fish over and repeat removing the fish to a plate just before the fish cooks through to the center. (Use a fork to test if necessary and remove the fish from the grill just as the center turns opaque being careful not to overcook). Drizzle each serving with a little more olive oil and serve.

Grilled Fish with Compound Butter

Fish Steaks or Fillets, cut into serving portions
1 Stick (1/2 cup) Unsalted Butter, softened
Zest of ½ a Fresh Lemon
1 Large Clove of Garlic, finely minced
1 Tsp – Fresh Parsley, minced
½ tsp – Fresh Rosemary, minced
½ tsp – Fresh Oregano, minced
½ tsp – Dried Red Pepper, minced
¼ tsp – Fresh Black pepper, ground
¼ tsp – Kosher Salt
Good Olive Oil

 

Blend butter well with the herbs and spices and wrap it in plastic wrap forming the butter roughly back into a stick. Place the butter in the freezer for 30 minutes or until firm.

 

Preheat a charcoal, gas grill, or grill pan. Drizzle both sides of the fish with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. When the grill is hot soak a paper towel with oil and using tongs, carefully rub to coat the grill with oil. Place the fish on the grill and cook two minutes, turn the fish clockwise 90 degrees and cook two more minutes or until the fish turns white “almost” half way through. Turn the fish over and repeat removing the fish to a plate just before the fish cooks through to the center. (Use a fork to test if necessary and remove the fish from the grill just as the center turns opaque being careful not to overcook).

 

Immediately top each fish portion with a pat (about a tablespoon) of the compound butter so that the heat of the fish melts the butter creating a sauce.

Enjoy!

Sunday Brunch: Chinese Style Shrimp and Eggs

Brunch

Sunday brunch is one of my favorite meals! I have such fond memories of preparing late morning (or early afternoon) omelets, French toast or pancakes for my daughters as they were growing up. Nowadays it just Kat and I most weekends but that hasn’t diminished the joy of getting in the kitchen with a hot cup of coffee and whipping up something tasty and interesting on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

I had bought some amazing looking shrimp earlier this week so today I was looking for recipes with shrimp and eggs. I had thought of egg fu yung but that would mean a trip to the store. A frittata sounded interesting too but with ginger and garlic on my mind I found this recipe on one of my favorite web sites!

Using Shao’s recipe for inspiration I added potatoes for substance and a little Sriracha for warmth and came up with an interesting dish that would even make for a light and easy weeknight dinner. Served with a simple slaw of mixed cabbage tossed with a little rice wine, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil this was a satisfying and delicious Sunday Brunch.

Notes: This recipe serves two. A wok would be a perfect cooking vessel for this, especially if you were going to double the recipe. Be careful not to over beat the eggs, there should still be some separation between the whites and the yolks. And, do add a little more Sriracha at the table for a great boost of flavor to wake up your taste buds!

Chinese Style Shrimp and Eggs

4 – Large Eggs
8 – Fresh Large Shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 Cup – Yukon Gold Potatoes, cut in ½ to ¾ inch cubes
1 Tbsp – Baking Soda
2 Tbsp = Kosher Salt, divided
Fresh black pepper
Cold Water
1 ½ Tbsp – Low Sodium Soy Sauce, divided
½ Tsp – Chili Sauce
1 Tbsp – Unsalted Butter, divided
1 Tbsp – Sesame Oil, divided
1 Tsp – Fresh Garlic, minced
1 Tsp – Fresh Ginger, minced
½ Cup – Fresh Scallions, green parts only, cut in approx. 1 inch pieces

In a bowl (or a zip lock bag) add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and the baking soda to 2 cups of water and stir (or shake) to dissolve. Add the shrimp and chill in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile in a small saucepan over high heat bring 3 cups of water to a boil with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and the potatoes. When the water reaches a boil reduce the heat to medium and cook until the potatoes test “almost” tender. About 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes into a strainer and shake to remove excess liquid. Set the strainer, with the potatoes, back over the saucepan to allow the potatoes to steam dry.

When you are ready to cook the eggs, remove the shrimp from the brine, rinse in cold water, and pat dry.

Place a 10 inch non-stick pan over medium heat and melt ½ of the butter with ½ tablespoon of sesame oil. Add the potatoes and cook, shaking the pan and stirring to turn only every couple of minutes. Cook until the cubes are nicely browned on all sides.

Add the shrimp, shaking the pan to evenly distribute. Cook the shrimp for about 1 minute on each side before adding the garlic, ginger, and a splash of the soy sauce (about ½ Tbsp.). Shake the pan and gently stir to distribute the ingredients and cook 2 minutes more, stirring gently only 2 to 3 times. Toss with the scallions, remove from the heat, and transfer the mixture to a bowl. (There is no need to wipe the pan.)

Gently beat the eggs together with the remaining soy sauce, the chili sauce, and about 1/8 teaspoon each of kosher salt & fresh ground pepper. Add the pan back to medium heat and melt the remaining butter with ½ tablespoon of sesame oil.

Swirl the pan to distribute the oil then add the eggs. Cook 30 seconds then shake the pan a little to loosen the eggs. Continue giving the pan and occasional shake while using a rubber spatula to break up the curds moving them towards the center of the pan.

When the eggs are mostly cooked with some still a little loose, gently stir the shrimp mixture into the pan. Cook no more than one more minute as you gently stir to combine.

Serve immediately garnished with a few sprigs of scallion and a little hot chili sauce on the side.

Enjoy!

Super Bowl Special: My Favorite Chicken Wings

Poster

Are you ready for some football? I’m excited about the post season and a little let down at the same time. Once again…the Dolphins made me cry! But, enough of the sniveling, how about some incredible chicken wings for your Super Bowl party?

I cannot make claim to this recipe as it is nearly word for word straight out of the Silver Palate Cookbook. Originally called Chicken Marbella, this wonderful recipe has been shared and talked about by many throughout the years. I however have made minimal changes to the recipe and cooking technique in order to make it “wing friendly”.

I made this batch after asking my daughter what she would like me to cook for her birthday to which she immediately answered “Oh my gosh how about those wings?” I knew exactly which recipe she was talking about! She likes them with a creamy Tzatziki sauce and celery sticks but I just gobble them down straight off the platter. Either way I can pretty much guarantee these wings will be the hit of the party and a new favorite in your recipe file!

Chicken Wings Marbella

10 Lbs – Chicken Wings, cut at the joints, tips removed
1 head of garlic, separated and peeled
1/4 cup dried Mexican oregano
1 Tsp Kosher salt
1/2 Tsp – freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup – red wine vinegar
1/4 cup – sherry vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup Italian parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped

Place cut wings in a large bowl. Place garlic, vinegar, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper in a blender or small food processor. Pulse until garlic is “just” pureed. Pour the garlic mixture over the wings, add the prunes, olives, capers, and bay leaves then toss gently to coat. (I used my hands to gently fold the marinade into the wings.)

Cover the bowl and marinate the wings overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375. Spread wings evenly on one or two large sheet pans. Sprinkle the wine evenly over and around the wings then sprinkle evenly with the brown sugar. Bake 25 minutes.

If using two pans, switch the pan locations in the oven moving the pan on the bottom oven rack to the top rack and vice-versa. Then bake 25 minutes more.

Raise the oven temp to 500 and bake 10 more minutes monitoring very closely for burning. (If using two pans I recommend cooking each pan one at a time for this final browning step.)

With a slotted spoon transfer the wings, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter or crock pot. Moisten with a few spoons full of pan juices and sprinkle generously with chopped parsley. Serve any extra pan juices in a sauce boat on the side.

Enjoy!

By Request: Rosemary Grilled Shrimp with Prosciutto with Key Lime Cocktail Sauce

Shrimp (Edit 2)

Rosemary Grilled Shrimp with Prosciutto with Key Lime Cocktail Sauce

What? Shrimp again? Well, football season is now in full swing and I prepared these shrimp at our first Miami Dolphins tailgate party. They were such a hit that I had several requests for the recipe the very next day.

This recipe presents a perfect opportunity to mention “levels of flavor” once again as these shrimp benefit from the flavor boosts of the prosciutto and the rosemary. While they are very good without the prosciutto (and I have made them that way for friends that do not eat pork), the addition of the prosciutto, in all its salty, crispy, goodness, really does add another level of flavor that makes these shrimp a very special treat!

Add to that the fresh rosemary branches used as skewers and while you can certainly use bamboo or metal skewers, taking the extra step and using the rosemary adds a smoky, piney bite as the branches smolder on the grill and again another level of flavor that I think knocks these shrimp right over the top of the flavor scale.

As if those 2 levels of flavor were not enough, along comes the citric acidity of the lime juice and the kick of the horseradish in the Key Lime Cocktail Sauce to again take it to another level and a good dish suddenly becomes the hit of the party. Touchdown!

Key Lime Cocktail Sauce

1 – 12 Oz bottle Prepared Chili Sauce
2 Tbsp – Fresh or bottled Key Lime Juice (I used Nellie & Joe’s from Publix)
1 heaping tablespoon – Prepared horseradish
½ Tbsp – Fresh ground black pepper
1 pinch – Kosher salt

Combine all ingredients and stir to mix well, chill thoroughly before serving.

Rosemary Grilled Shrimp with Prosciutto

2 Lbs Fresh Shrimp – Peeled and deveined
½ Lb – Prosciutto, thin sliced and cut into ½ inch wide strips
Zest of 1 large (or 2 medium) fresh lemon, divided in half
2 cloves – Garlic, grated or minced very fine
2 Tbsp – Dry Sherry
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 pinch – Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper

4 to 8 – Fresh Rosemary branches, leaves removed (with 2-3 inches of leaves remaining at the tip).

In a medium-sized mixing bowl combine half of the lemon zest with the next 2 ingredients, add a pinch of kosher salt and several good grinds of black pepper (about ½ tsp) then roughly ¼ cup of olive oil. Whisk until the olive oil begins to emulsify (or thicken). Gently toss the shrimp in this mixture until well coated, cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

While the grill is heating up, wrap each shrimp individually with a strip of the prosciutto. Using the rosemary branches as skewers, thread the shrimp evenly on 4 to 8 of the skewers (depending on the length of the branches). Drizzle the skewered shrimp with a little more olive oil, sprinkle them evenly with the remaining lemon zest and a few more grinds of black pepper.

Grilled directly over the flames, turning only once, until the prosciutto is crispy and the shrimp are browned and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side depending on how hot the grill is. Serve with Key Lime Cocktail sauce and…

Enjoy!

Randy

Surf & Turf Salad: Thai Style Quinoa Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

Thai style surf & turf quinoa salad

Upon returning home after traveling and dining out for a few days I was looking very much forward to a home cooked meal last night! After rustling through the cupboards and the freezer I settled on surf and turf in the form of a grouper fillet from my last trip to the Florida Keys, complimented by a small skirt steak. Neither was quite enough for a meal by itself but together I thought I could come up with something special for the two of us.

While exploring the fridge I also stumbled upon a bottle of Thai style peanut dressing I had made just before leaving town and that got me thinking salad would be just the ticket! The first order of business was making a Thai style marinade for the steak and a batch of quinoa that would complement those flavors. For the dressing I had used This Recipe from a blog that I follow and added only a teaspoon of tamarind paste and a splash of fresh coconut milk for a flavor boost.

The salad itself was simply ingredients I had on hand; the base was a “Power Greens” salad mix with chopped red cabbage, grated carrots, and chopped celery. I tossed each portion gently with ½ cup each of the quinoa and garnished the salad with cucumber slices, fresh parsley, and some pickled baby beets that were also on hand. After dressing the salad I set the cooked fish and sliced steak on top and sprinkled everything with a few black and white sesame seeds. I also added a few raw cashews at the table as an afterthought (not in picture).

Thai Marinade for Steak or Fish

2 – Scallions, chopped
1 – 3 inch piece of Lemon Grass stalk, pounded to release flavor
¼ Cup Light Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp – Grape Seed Oil
1 Tbsp – Sesame Oil
1 Tbsp – Rice Wine Vinegar
1 Tbsp – Fresh Garlic, Minced
1 Tbsp – Fresh Ginger, Minced
1 Tbsp – Fresh Lime juice (about ½ of a lime)
1 Tbsp – Fresh lime zest (also about ½ of a lime)
½ Tsp – Sriracha or similar (or to taste)

Combine all ingredients and whisk to combine.  Soak steak until ready to grill (at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours). Soak fish for no more than 20 minutes for best grilling results.

To prepare the meats: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and the grill pan over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes. Brush the grill pan with a little grape seed oil and place the fish at an angle to the ridges in the pan. Cook 2-3 minutes (depending on thickness), turn and cook 2 minutes more. Place the fish on an oven proof dish and finish in the oven just until the flesh flakes easily with a fork.

While the fish is in the oven wipe the grill pan, heat the pan over medium high heat until smoking hot, brush the surface with a little more oil. Make sure your steak is trimmed of any excess fat or silverskin and and place the steak at an angle to the ridges in the pan. Cook without moving for 2-3 minutes, turn and cook 2-3 minutes more (depending on thickness). Rest the steak on a plate for at least 5 minutes before slicing ACROSS the grain.

Thai Flavored Quinoa

1 Cup – Quinoa, rinsed (I used Trader Joe’s Organic Tri Colored Quinoa)
2 Cups – Water
1 Tbsp – Dark Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp – Sesame Oil
1 Clove – Garlic, whole
2 – 3 inch pieces of Lemon Grass stalk, pounded to release flavor
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Warm a medium saucepan over medium heat, swirl in the sesame oil then stir in the quinoa, garlic, and lemon grass. Toast gently for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally or if you hear popping. Dissolve the dark soy sauce in the water then pour, while stirring, over the quinoa. Raise the heat to medium high and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook 15 minutes more. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and allow it to cool before tossing into your salad, remove the lemon grass and garlic before serving.

To serve prepare your salad base of mixed greens (use your imagination!), grated carrots, cut celery, and red cabbage. Toss gently with ½ cup of quinoa per serving and garnish with sliced cucumbers, radishes, pickled beets or whatever else you like. Drizzle the salad with dressing, place your fish and sliced
steak on top and garnish with sesame seeds and a little sliced scallion.

Enjoy!

Meatless Monday: Ensalada Caprese Stack with Toasted Garlic “Croutons” and Savory Butternut Squash Soup

Photo by Kathyhuntphoto.com

Meatless Monday seems to be growing in popularity and meat lover that I am, I’ve been avoiding it like the plague! But now that the holidays are over and I’m back to eating relatively healthful food day to day but…I still have pants in the closet that I can’t fit into anymore!

While I’m well aware that eating veggies only once a week isn’t going to make a significant impact it’s certainly a step in the right direction. It also starts off the week with a kick to my immune system and sets the stage for eating good wholesome food throughout the rest of the week.  So, meatless Monday it is!

Bacon bits just wouldn’t have been right so I went with the garlic “croutons”. These are not actually croutons but simply pan toasted chopped garlic. These yummy little tidbits pack a punch, are easy to make and great as a garnish for soups, salads, or even cooked vegetables.

I use a little dairy in both of these recipes. If you avoid dairy try making the tomato stack with firm tofu in place of the mozzarella cheese and unsweetened almond milk would be very good in the soup.

Note: The soup is best if made the day before and it also makes this an easy dinner to prepare on a Monday night!

Savory Butternut Squash Soup

1 – Large butternut squash
1 – Whole head of garlic
1 – Med yellow onion, halved then sliced thin
1 Tbsp – Fresh ginger, grated
6 Cups – Low sodium vegetable broth
1 Cup – Low fat kefir, plain (or non-fat buttermilk)
Olive Oil
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Olive oil (or canola)
Parmesan cheese for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and spritz with cooking spray. Quarter the squash leaving the seeds intact and place skin side down on the baking pan. Spritz the squash with a little of the cooking spray and season with salt and pepper.

Very carefully cut roughly ½ inch off the top (pointy end) of the garlic head. (The idea is to expose as many of the cloves as possible without removing too much of the meat.) Place the garlic on a piece of foil then drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil evenly over the top. Season with salt and pepper then bring the edges of the foil together over the top of the garlic head to seal.

Now place the baking sheet into the oven then place the neat little package of garlic on one of the corners of the baking sheet alongside the squash. Bake for 45 minutes, carefully remove the garlic and bake the squash 15 minutes more. Remove the squash from the oven and set aside to cool.

While the squash is cooling add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a 4 quart sauce pan and place over medium heat. Add the onion and ginger and cook 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the pan is sizzling and the onion has begun to become transparent. Lower the heat to low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the onion turn golden, about 10 minutes.

When the squash have cooled enough to work with remove the skin and the seeds. (If they are not too burned; save the seeds for garnish or to munch on later.) As you work, place the cooked squash pieces into the pan along with the onions continuing to stir once in a while. Carefully remove the garlic cloves from the head and gently squeeze the roasted meat out of the skin, adding this to the pan with the onions and squash.

When you have all of the squash and the garlic added to the pan, add 2 cups of the broth, raise the heat to medium high and cook stirring often until most of the broth has evaporated. Stir in 3 more cups of broth and reserve the remaining cup for later. Allow the soup to just come back to a boil then remove it from the heat.

With the pan off of the heat, use an immersion blender to carefully puree the soup while adding the kefir a little at a time. Blend until all of the ingredients are well pureed and the soup has become silky smooth. Check the flavor and add salt and pepper if needed then return the pan to the heat and cook stirring often until heated through. If the soup is too think stir in the reserved cup of broth to bring back the consistency. Serve garnished with toasted garlic “croutons” and just a few shavings of parmesan cheese.

Ensalada Caprese Stack with Toasted Garlic “Croutons”

1 – Med to med-large very fresh, very ripe tomato per person, rinsed well
4 – ¼ thick slices fresh mozzarella per tomato
1 branch – Fresh basil, per tomato
Aged balsamic vinegar (I used12 year old)
Extra virgin olive oil
Mixed baby greens salad
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese for garnish

Slice enough off the bottom of each tomato to allow it to sit flat. Working one tomato at a time and slicing horizontally cut each into five equal slices including the top. Position the tomato slices in such a way that you can easily reassemble them into the original tomato shape.

Starting at the bottom, sprinkle the first slice with a little kosher salt & pepper. Now add a slice of mozzarella and a leaf or two of fresh basil, then drizzle this with a little of the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Set the next tomato slice on top and repeat the process until the tomato is reassembled with salt and pepper, cheese, basil, and oil and vinegar between each slice.

Before putting the top back on the tomato carefully cut out the stem, then after placing the top back on the tomato, drizzle a little more oil and vinegar into the hole left behind. Pinch the top of f of a branch of basil and place the stem end into the same hole so that it appears to be leaves on the tomato.

To serve, spread a serving of mixed baby greens on the plate then carefully set the tomato in the center. Sprinkle the greens with a little of the oil and vinegar, then garnish with toasted garlic “croutons” and just a few shavings of parmesan cheese.

Toasted Garlic Croutons

 2 to 4 Tbsp – Garlic, roughly chopped (large mince)
2 Tbsp – Olive Oil
1 – Pinch of kosher salt

Warm a small non-stick pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer lower the heat to low and stir in the garlic. Stirring very often to avoid burning, cook until all of the garlic has become evenly cooked and golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove the garlic to drain on a paper towel much as you would with bacon. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and shake the paper towel a little to distribute and to spread out the garlic so the pieces don’t stick together. Allow “croutons” a minute or two to dry before serving.

Enjoy!

Randy

Velveting Chicken 101: Chicken Stir Fry with Chive Blossoms, White Birch and Enokitake Mushrooms

Photo by kathyhuntphoto.com

Have you ever wondered how Chinese restaurants get their chicken so moist and tender? I used to think they had added MSG or some secret tenderizer that made the chicken taste great but was probably horrible for you. I had all but given up on figuring it out, relegating myself to Chinese takeout when I craved that “velvety” goodness when I came across an article about a cooking process actually called velveting.

Used not only for chicken, but also for beef and even pork, velveting is the simple process of marinating the meat in a “batter” of egg whites and corn starch then frying or poaching to set the coating. In restaurants they usually fry the meat quickly in plenty of oil but having tried both I actually prefer poaching. I think the protein comes out more moist and tender when cooked in water and using a little less oil certainly never hurts.

Below is the recipe I prepared most recently but the beauty of a stir fry is the unlimited number of combinations of ingredients you can use. This one would be good with broccoli, snow peas, and maybe even a few cashews in place of the chive blossoms and mushrooms…use your imagination and see what new dish you can dream up. Just remember to cook your vegetables starting with the ones that take longest to cook and finishing with the most delicate.

Chicken Stir Fry with Chive Blossoms, White Birch and Enokitake Mushrooms

To velvet the chicken…

2 – Boneless skinless chicken breasts, about ¾ lbs
1 – Egg white
1 Tbsp. – Corn starch
1 Tbsp. – Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
1 Tbsp. – Sesame oil
1 sprinkle – Kosher salt

Slice the chicken breast into thin, even slices 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. In a bowl large enough to hold all of the chicken, combine the 5 remaining ingredients and whisk to thoroughly blend. Stir in the chicken slices and toss to coat well. Cover and set in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

In a wok over high heat bring 8 cups of water to a very light boil. Reduce the heat to medium and poach the chicken in two batches stirring gently to separate the pieces. Cook until the chicken turns mostly white (about two minutes) then remove to a strainer to drain.

Your chicken is now velveted and ready to use in your favorite stir fry!

For the stir fry…

2 cups – Velveted chicken breast
4 cups – Chive blossoms, sliced in two to three inch pieces, tough bottoms removed
2 cups – White birch mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned and separated
1 package – Enokitake mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned and separated (roughly 1 cups worth)
½ Cup – Chicken broth
2 Tbsp. – Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
2 Tbsp. – Tamari
1-1/2 Tbsp. – Hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp. – Garlic, finely minced or pureed
1 Tbsp. – Ginger, finely minced or pureed
1 Tbsp. – Corn starch
1 Tbsp. – Sesame oil
1 Tbsp. – Grape seed or peanut oil

In a small bowl mix the chicken broth, wine, tamari, hoisin, and corn starch until well blended. Set this aside for later.

Heat the wok over high heat and add the oils. Stirring rapidly, add the garlic and ginger and cook about 30 seconds continuing to stir. Stir in the white birch mushrooms and cook one minute before adding the chive blossoms, cook two minutes more while stirring…try to keep the ingredients spread out rather than all crowded in the middle of the wok.

Stir in the chicken then pour in the sauce mixture tossing all to combine. Continue cooking only until the sauce has come to a boil and has begun to thicken.

With the wok off of the heat gently stir in most of the enokitaki mushrooms reserving some for garnish.

Serve over cooked rice and enjoy!

Randy

Crusty Chicken with Mushroom & Leek Sauce

Photo by kathyhuntphoto.com

Photo by kathyhuntphoto.com

I just have to say Jacques Pepin is one of my favorite “celebrity” chefs! Between the wonderful shows with he and Julia Child and the “you can do this at home” approach to so many of his recipes, I really have grown to appreciate his work. Tonight was no exception as I was looking to use a giant chicken that my wife brought home but wanted something fast, something other than the same old tired recipes.

Jacques calls for chicken thighs but I split that giant chicken in half saving half (still over 3 lbs of chicken!) for later. Leaving the chicken intact, I removed all but the largest bones from the half that I did cook making it lay nice and flat in the pan…it cooked up perfectly! I took a few other small liberties with the recipe but the credit for this one absolutely goes to Jacques. Thank you Chef Pepin for all that you do!

For your cooking pleasure you can find the original recipe here: http://www.kqed.org/w/morefastfoodmyway/recipes.html#210

Crusty Chicken with Mushroom & Leek Sauce

One half chicken, intact with all but the largest bones removed, skin on
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup leeks, rinsed and halves lengthwise, then sliced in ¼ inch slices
1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
3 cups washed and sliced (1/4 inch) baby bella or white mushrooms
Roughly 1/3 cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp parsley chopped fresh, plus one Tbsp for garnish

Arrange the chicken skin side down on a cutting board. Using a sharp paring knife, trim off any excess skin at the edges, remove wing tips, and cut about 1/2 inch deep into the flesh on either side of the thigh bone. (This will help the meat cook more quickly.) Sprinkle each side evenly with ½ of the salt and pepper and arrange the chicken skin side down in a nonstick skillet with a tight-fitting lid.

Place the skillet over high heat and when the chicken starts sizzling reduce the heat to medium low, cover tightly, and cook for 18 to 20 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure the chicken is browning properly. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 150 degrees. If the chicken seems to be cooking too fast after 10 minutes or so, reduce the heat to low. The skin of the chicken should be very crisp and brown. Transfer the chicken skin side up to an ovenproof platter and place it in the oven.

Discard all but 2 tablespoons fat from the skillet in which you cooked the chicken. Add the leeks, garlic, and mushrooms and sauté them over high heat for about 3 minutes. Test for seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste then add the wine and any liquid that has accumulated around the thighs on the platter. Cook the sauce over high heat for about 1 minute to reduce the liquid.

Note: If a richer sauce is desired stir 1 Tbsp of butter into the mushrooms just before serving.

To serve, divide the sauce among serving plates. Carve the chicken into serving portions and place in the middle of the mushroom sauce on each plate, spoon some sauce over, sprinkle with additional fresh parsley, and serve.

Enjoy!

Randy

Butter vs Olive Oil – Penne with Shrimp, Fresh Herbs and Lemon

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

There was a time when most any meal I set out to cook began with a big glob of butter melting in a hot pan. Whether it was sautéing onions for a casserole, browning chicken for a braise, or scrambling an egg; it all started with butter. Then as I began reading about nutrition and becoming more conscious of my health, slowly but surely I transitioned to olive oil. Quietly and gradually, somewhere over the last few years, olive oil became my butter.

Through most of my years of cooking, it was not unusual for me to use a pound of butter per week, or at least every couple of weeks. Nowadays it is a rare purchase indeed and though I still keep (un-salted) butter around for a special treat in a pan-sauce or on my Sunday morning toast…I can honestly say the transition is complete. And why not?

Butter is a saturated fat too much of which can contribute to the build-up of blood cholesterol – Olive oil actually contains anti-oxidants and monounsaturated fats that have been proven to help lower cholesterol. Olive oil also contains vitamins E, K, and A, powerful anti-inflammatory properties and a host of other health benefits.

So why eat butter at all? Well, aside from that wonderful flavor there are a few good things about butter. For one, it does not contain any trans-fat, it also contains beneficial vitamins and minerals, can be high in Omega 3, and can even help your body fight off cancer cells. There is a great article at getmybodyback.com that discusses the details.

To my thinking these days, a little butter goes a long way…It’s a good fit in my “everything in moderation” theory that I mention so often. Butter is not inherently evil but it can easily be too much of a good thing. If you balance it out with a good bit of olive oil though, I think you can find a happy medium that will help you live a longer and more enjoyable life.

Recipe notes: This recipe uses olive oil as the base for the “sauce”. It is surprising in that it is not dripping in fat or greasy tasting. The idea is to coat the pasta rather than drenching it in a heavy sauce. The recipe comes together very quickly so I recommend having all of your ingredients ready to go by the time the pasta is almost ready to drain.

Penne with Shrimp, Fresh Herbs and Lemon

1 Lb – Med fresh shrimp, peeled & deveined
1/3 Cup – Extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp – Fresh garlic, minced
2 Sprigs – Fresh thyme
½ Tsp – Dried red pepper flakes
8 Oz – Dried 100% whole wheat penne
Juice of ½ Lemon
1 to 2 Tbsp – Fresh basil chiffonade
Fresh Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper

Add a tablespoon of kosher salt to a large pot of water over medium-high heat. When the water comes to a boil gently stir in the pasta. Continue stirring occasionally and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until the pasta has softened to your desired doneness.

When the pasta is roughly two minutes from being done, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, stir in the garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes and about ¼ teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper. Stir constantly for about 30 seconds then add the shrimp in a single layer. Shake the pan to “nestle” the ingredients.

Meanwhile, test the pasta for doneness, and drain into a colander reserving a little of the pasta water on the side.

After about 2 minutes, shake the pan again to loosen any shrimp that may be sticking and turn the shrimp over. Cook 2 minutes more on the second side then add the lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water. Cook another minute and remove the pan from the heat. To finish, stir in the pasta and the basil, gently tossing to combine.

Serve with fresh grated parmesan sprinkled over the pasta.

Enjoy!

Randy

Mission “Learn to like Tilapia” – Tzatziki Crusted Tilapia

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

For some time now I have been wrinkling my nose at tilapia. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the sustainability factor of conscientiously farmed raised fish; I do! It’s the taste and the texture of most tilapia that turns me off. In my experience tilapia often has an unpleasant earthy (or muddy) taste and the texture can be mushy even when it’s perfectly fresh and flawlessly prepared. I don’t mean to be a food snob, really I don’t! But compared to all the fresh Atlantic seafood I have the opportunity to catch (well sometimes), or purchase here in South Florida, tilapia just seemed second rate.

Last night however, I decided to give tilapia another chance. Why? Because tilapia has taken over the market in leaps and bounds becoming one the most popular seafood products in the U.S. today. Everywhere I look, from restaurant menus, to grocery stores tilapia has become a recognized value and a very popular request. Hey, what was the old adage…If you can’t beat them, join them? So I picked up a package of fresh tilapia fillets and set out to prove myself wrong.

According to Cooks Illustrated the muddy taste in tilapia is caused by a naturally occurring compound called geosmin which is Greek for “earth smell”. (Go figure!) They said this compound is abundant in the blue-green algae found in the bottom of the man-made ponds that catfish and tilapia are raised in and that the flavor can be diffused by acids. They went on to recommend soaking in buttermilk for an hour before cooking which of course, I didn’t take the time to do.

My thinking in using this recipe was that the yogurt, garlic, and vinegar in the tzatziki would provide enough acid to overcome any unpleasant taste in the fish and indeed it did…somewhat. While the recipe is a keeper that I will definitely use again, I might opt for pre-soaking the tilapia in buttermilk next time (if I don’t use snapper, grouper, or mahi-mahi instead).

Hang on now…don’t fret! I haven’t given up on tilapia yet. After all, I still have 3 big fillets left from that package last night. I think I might try it with an acidic marinade, a Cuban mojo perhaps or some other citrus blend. I’ll keep you posted as mission “Learn to like Tilapia” continues!

Tzatziki Crusted Tilapia

2 to 4 – Tilapia fillets (preferably pre-soaked in buttermilk for one hour)
¾ Cup – Japanese Panko breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp – Olive Oil
Zest of one whole lemon
½ Tbsp – Large grind, fresh ground black pepper
Kosher Salt
Tzatziki Sauce (Recipe below)

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Pat the fillets dry and place them on a lightly oiled, foil covered cookie sheet. Sprinkle the fillets with kosher salt and set them aside while you mix the crumb topping.

In a medium bowl combine the breadcrumbs, lemon zest, and pepper then drizzle in the olive oil while stirring. Continue stirring and fluffing the crumbs loosely until the oil, lemon, and pepper has been very well distributed, about 5 minutes.

Spread an approximately 1/8 inch thick layer of tzatziki evenly on top of each fish fillet then sprinkle the crumb mixture over the tzatziki to form an evenly thick coat. Bake for 10 minutes then broil for 1 minute to crisp and brown the topping. Carefully remove from the oven and plate the cooked fillets.

Serve with additional tzatziki and a lemon wedge on the side.

Tzatziki Sauce

2 Cups – Greek Yogurt, plain non-fat
1 small (or 1/2 large) – Cucumber, seeded and grated  (about 1/2 cup)
1 Clove – Garlic, grated fine
1 Tbsp – Red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp – Olive oil
1 good pinch – kosher salt

Grate the cucumber and place it on a paper towel or dish towel, sprinkle it with the kosher salt and let it sit while you prep the other ingredients. In a medium bowl stir together the garlic, vinegar, and olive oil then stir in the yogurt. Finally, gently squeeze any excess moisture out of the grated cucumber and stir into the yogurt mixture until well blended. Taste for seasoning and chill until ready to use.

Enjoy,

Randy